Alzheimer’s is not just an old person’s disease

There are every chance that Alzheimer can hit a person in the 50s or maybe even younger. The world is celebrating Alzheimer’s month in September and the focus is on the global cost of dementia makes it a trillion dollar disease and the suggestion is that prevention and early diagnosis could save governments’ money.
According to experts from World Alzheimer’s month, as few as one in 10 people receive a diagnosis for dementia in low and middle income countries.
Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age, explained Dr Hamed al Sinawi, Senior Consultant old age Psychiatrist. “Younger-onset (also known as early — onset) Alzheimer’s affects people younger than age 65. Nearly four per cent of the total number of Alzheimer’s patients have younger onset Alzheimer’s. People who have family history are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, points out Dr Sinawi.”
Knowing the age is an eye opener.
Many people with younger — onset are in their 40s and 50s. “This causes more challenging to their family as most will be still working and bringing up children and would have to stop working due to the disease.”
When asked about the younger patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dr Sinaw said, “We have few patients in our memory clinic in Sultan Qaboos University Hospital who have early — onset Alzheimer’s disease.”
Early diagnosis is extremely important because it allows people with Alzheimer’s to plan ahead while they are still able to make important decisions about their future care. “In addition, their families can receive practical information, advice and support. Early diagnosis also meant that patients receive available drug and non-drug therapies that may improve their cognition and enhance their quality of life.
And, they can, if they choose, participate in research for the benefit of future generations,” explains Dr Sinawi.
When it comes to early diagnosis, raising public awareness about Alzheimer’s is very important especially because some of the early symptoms are confused as normal.
“It is common for elderly people who do not have Alzheimer’s to forget things and repeat themselves. But with Alzheimer’s patients it is not just poor memory, there are other symptoms that make the person unable to look after himself or herself,” said the psychiatrist.
Currently there is a study that is being held to understand the stress and burn out amongst care givers of Dementia patients. Internationally it is known that care givers tend to suffer from stress. Predominantly care givers tend to be wife or daughter of the patient. While other family members move on with their living in most cases one person tends to care for the individual.
“Looking after an Alzheimer’s patient is just like looking after children, except in this case the child never grows but deteriorates,” adds Dr Sinawi.
Internationally women are increasingly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but there is another factor and that is women are known to live longer.
This year also marks the Second World Alazheimer’s Day — National Symposium organised by Sultan Qaboos University Hospital and Oman Alzheimer’s Society will be focusing on the theme — ‘Remember Me’. It will be held on September 20 from 7 pm to 9 pm at Muscat Holiday Inn.

There are many concerns that go through people’s minds when it comes to Alzheimer’s but prevention takes the centre stage.
Dr Hamed al Sinawi gives a few tips:
“Some of the well proven methods are regular exercising, socialising with other people, eating healthy especially the Mediterranean diet, ensure you have plenty of green salads, fish oil, olive oil and walnuts.”
Some studies have been conducted on curry and coffee but there is not enough evidence yet.

Researchers have developed a list of 10 early signs, which may suggest that may suggest the person has Alzheimer’s
1. Difficulty in remembering things that just happened.
2. Inability to plan or solve problems
3. Trouble completing familiar tasks
4. Losing track of dates, seasons and time
5. Vision problems — judging distance, identifying colours or contrasts, as well as having difficulty in reading in addition to poor driving.
6. Struggling with conversations — repeating the same stories and inability to join or follow conversations
7. Misplacing things – putting items in unusual places, in some cases accusing others of stealing.
8. Poor decision making — having poor judgment with money or frivolously giving it away.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities and giving up hobbies
10. Mood and personality changes — becoming upset more easily especially when they are away from home.

Lakshmi Kothaneth